Santa Fe City Councilor Michael Garcia said he was concerned that recommendations for monuments like the Soldiers’ Monument did not seem to be a high priority for the team overseeing the city’s Cultural, History, Art, Reconciliation and Truth Process during a quarterly update provided to the City Council on Wednesday.
Garcia said he was disappointed after Valerie Martinez, co-director of Artful Life, the group selected to oversee the process, said the priority for the team was community engagement and to gather information, perspectives and opinions and did not expressly include monuments and statues.
“I think we need to rethink this whole process,” he said. “… We’re just going to be further divided in a year if there is still that box on the Plaza. We haven’t made a decision with the Don Diego de Vargas statue and any location around the city that [has] historical trauma related to it.”
Garcia that he believed, based on the resolution, that a recommendation for monuments and statues was going to be a priority for CHART.
The city approved CHART in January, as way to help foster community and cultural healing across the city in the wake of the destruction of the Soldiers’ Monument on Indigenous Peoples Day last year.
The process will be carried out through a year of events, meetings, dialogue sessions, interviews and surveys. City officials have long stated CHART is not expressly about monuments and statues, or art in general, although members of the community are hyperfocused on the subject.
At the end of year, the City Council will be provided a report on the outcomes of CHART.
But Garcia said it might take two years since the obelisk was felled to potentially come up with a recommendation, which he feared left open a gaping community wound.
He asked Martinez to reconsider and reconfigure the process to make sure monuments and statues were a priority, but Martinez encouraged anyone who had an opinion on monuments or statues to participate in CHART and raise that issue.
Garcia also said he had concerns of the makeup of the team selected to facilitate and document the process, questioning if ArtfulLife had any plans to add a historian or open the team to more members.
City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler echoed Garcia’s concerns about the makeup of the facilitator team, saying people she thought would be a great fit told her they were not selected.
“I think overall we have a level of trust that we have to repair,” Vigil Coppler said. “And when people who grew up here and are very familiar with the issues we have gone through, when they don’t identify or even know who are on this group, I think it does some damage to the trust that people have.”
She also questioned why the Spanish fraternal group Union Protectíva de Santa Fé was not listed as a connection in the presentation for CHART. The group is part of lawsuit against the city and Mayor Alan Webber over the city’s handling of the destruction of the Soldiers Monument.
“I am going to be watching this very closely,” Vigil Coppler said. “Obviously, I will not be having a hand in it, but I will be following this very closely.”
City Historian Valerie Rangel said she was confident in the makeup of the team and had no plans to alter it. She said she wanted to make it clear that members of the project team were to facilitate the meetings and conversations, and they are not advocates for specific stances.
“I don’t necessarily agree with you that the team doesn’t reflect the background that I think you are referring to, whether that is Hispanic, or any other term you would like,” Rangel said. “It is hard, with a team that is this diverse, our backgrounds are going to be very diverse.”
Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth agreed, stating she felt the metrics of the team spoke for themselves.
According to a presentation, the 20-person facilitator team is made up of 12 women and eight men. Eight members speak Spanish, while one speaks Tewa, one Diné, one Vietnamese and another German.
Twelve are people of color, with six being lifelong residents. Six of the facilitators are between 16 and 30 years old, five are between 31 and 50, and the rest are between 51 and 80.
Councilor Renee Villarreal said she felt people were judging the facilitators before they got a chance to do their work and she was willing to give them a chance.
Rangel said she felt people would be less concerned if they inspected the biographies of the selected people at chartsantafe.com.
The update was given as CHART prepares for its first slate of events.
On Sunday, the CHART team and the city plan a free opening ceremony from 2 to 4 p.m. at Frenchy’s Field Park, consisting of an homage to the Santa Fe River and an opportunity to meet the CHART team.
On Thursday, Nov. 18, the CHART team will host its first cultural history series, a conversation via Zoom with State Historian Rob Martinez and Rangel.
The topic is, “How can we come to a fuller understanding of the history of Santa Fe?”